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Outdoor Hour Challenges – Handbook of Nature Study

“Make this summer a time to learn a little something new about your world. Finding time for these challenges will help this summer be one that your child will not only learn something new but make special seasonal memories for a lifetime.” – Barbara McCoy

Lightning bugs. Frogs. Raccoons. Owls. Mosquitoes. Ants. Trees. Weather. Even bats.

That’s what we’ve studied this summer. Just about once a week, we deliberately studied nature. But really, the children and I didn’t think of it as study. It was our summer fun. To take notice right when everything is growing, blooming and croaking.

What is an Outdoor Hour Challenge? Simply the idea of getting outside for a short while, in your own backyard – to enjoy, to observe and maybe to learn something new. Any time of year. The Outdoor Hour Challenges are hosted by Barb-Harmony Art Mom on her Handbook of Nature Study blog. On the Handbook of Nature Study site, there is a section devoted to Getting Started and More. Since my family first started participating, the challenges have changed from weekly postings on the Handbook of Nature Study blog to a monthly newsletter. Here are details directly from Barb-Harmony Art Mom’s July 2011 newsletter post:

“1. Instead of a weekly challenge, there will be a monthly newsletter with a month’s worth of nature study suggestions, new nature journal ideas, a custom notebook page, and always a few more goodies.
2. Each newsletter will be filled with specific ideas for encouraging nature study in your family, no matter where you live.
3. The newsletter will be available at the beginning of each new month and you will be able to download it and print for your family.
4. The newsletter will outline the Outdoor Hour Challenge topics for the month and all participants will complete the challenges the same as before but there will no longer be a Mr. Linky each week. Instead, blog entries will be shared in the monthly Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival at the end of the month.
5. I will still share our family’s Outdoor Hour Challenge experiences on my blog and support everyone’s entries by sharing about them in the Blog Carnival.”

How does a family get started? How do you participate? When we began Outdoor Hour Challenges, we started small. About one, maybe two studies a month. Just simple studies of daily things in our own backyard. For us, we simply got into a routine. Kerri had mentioned she and her family do just ‘one more thing’ together after lunch. So I took that idea. Whenever the fancy struck, I gathered our field guides. I put them in a pile in the middle of the kitchen table. While the children ate lunch I read the excerpt from the Handbook of Nature Study. We’d push back, leave the lunch dishes and forge out into… the backyard!

With practice, it became easy. When we first started I didn’t even have the suggested text, I just pulled from what we had. See, I’ve always loved nature. Oh, I really love birds.

Oh, the wonderful things I’ve learned myself. Not only about God’s creation but about simply spending this precious time with my children. This. This is what was lacking in our day-to-day. In our homeschool.

I’m not sure why I originally found it difficult to add nature study in on top of what we were already doing. Maybe it was the busyness of a growing family, needs of toddlers and the fumbling of fractions.

This answer sort of came about on its own. By just stepping outside. By practicing. Seeing what we might need. Figuring out which weekday is easier. Or when the weather might be better. And throwing in a bit of spontaneity. Plus mixing in the encouragement of the Handbook of Nature Study community – all the other families enjoying the same type discoveries. Of course, topped off by the gentle nudges and examples by blog owner and hostess, Barb-Harmony Art Mom.

Before we knew it these studies found their way into our routine once a week.What are we studying this week Mama?” I rolled in our science text along with our topic.

What does it cost? All of the challenges are offered free of charge in monthly newsletter form. Notebook pages all ready. Challenges in a pdf. Print it so you are ready to go. The summer… stretched ahead and we had only to enjoy nature. We even did a one small square challenge at the beach, on vacation.

Looking for a certain topic? Several ebooks, nature series and specific seasonal studies are available for purchase, even more available free of charge. Simple scroll down the right hand sidebar of the site or browse Barb-Harmony Art Mom’s Where to Find All My Resources.

“Where do you get these pages? the eldest asked. I explained. “How do you know how to pull out that storybook to go with it? How did you know that there is a close up photo of a lightening bug in that book?” Practice. Using and enjoying what we have. Finding out what works.

Now, all our science texts, field guides, binoculars, nature notebooks and journals are housed in a bookcase. Right next to the kitchen table. So it’s easy. Easy to go outside, leave the rest for later. Easy to grab what we need and step out the back door.

And even easier to delight.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned how nature studies led to art

I encourage you to make a deliberate habit to delight. Simple studies, right in your own backyard, will enrich your lives more than you know.

The breakdown of nature resources:

  • There’s always new or past studies to jump in on. Click over to the Handbook of Nature Study site. Barb-Harmony Art Mom publishes a monthly newsletter plus a monthly blog carnival for all participating families to share their ‘stepping outside’ experience with the community.
  • Barb-Harmony Art Mom has also reviewed The Handbook of Nature Study book here on The Curriculum Choice. Click over for her thorough explanation of this resource: Handbook of Nature Study.
  • Interested to see how nature study fits into a homeschool day? I have a category dedicated to the same and share all of our nature studies at Hodgepodge


How about you? Do you and your children enjoy nature study? Or do you plan to add this delight to your school plans?

~Tricia faces a daily dose of chaos homeschooling five children. She contributes a blend of writing at parenting, frugal living and homeschool sites as well as her own daily Hodgepodge.

Tricia (130 Posts)

Now in her 15th year of homeschooling, Tricia faces a daily dose of chaos with five children. She is author of art curriculum for all ages, a cookbook series and helpful homeschool habits at Hodgepodge. She and her husband, Steve, are owners of The Curriculum Choice.

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Sally August 8, 2011, 1:18 pm

    I love it all over the place! I recently found Hodgepodge Mom and holy cow, how I have loved every.single.post. And to get her and Nature-Study-Barb together? Be still, my heart.
    I get so blasted mired down in the details of Nature Study, in the logistics.
    Where to put the books?
    What kind of art medium (or media?)?
    Do we draw outside or in?
    Or do we paint?
    And how do you paint properly?
    Should you have a drawing book and a painting book?
    Should the journal be child-directed, or guided by the study led by me?
    Should, then, the child have her own book and then a book for studies that we do together?
    Should it be spiral bound or less lovely, but more flexible 3-ring binder?
    Seriously, I ask myself all these questions and more (especially the which-kind-of-journal-do-we-use question) EVERY time I THINK about Nature Study.
    My middle name was Micro-Manage, but I changed it :)
    Sigh….the breath of relief that i felt –and heard– as I was reading this post surprised me. And whoo boy, did I need that! Thank you!
    (and now, back to my regularly schedule Hodgepodge reading…)

  • Sally August 8, 2011, 1:24 pm

    May I ask a question here? When using pastels, can you spray a fixative on the paper when it’s all done to keep it from smearing? We have a junior set from a craft store and the gang loves them!

    • Tricia August 9, 2011, 3:11 pm

      Glad you are enjoying the pastels. Nana says “Krylon Workable Fixatif”…most any crafts store will have it because they (Krylon)are in the spray paint business. It must be sprayed on lightly or it will run and ruin the paper. If possible, use outside or in an open area.

  • Tricia August 8, 2011, 3:22 pm

    Sally – I am a huge fan of Barb-Harmony Art Mom! Her nature studies have given us such joy. And, as I see you read, the freedom to choose however we’d like to do a journal page, incorporating art. Whatever medium we feel like using at the time :) Also, she answers all those micro-manage type questions you mentioned above, in several of her tutorial type posts. But, really, the answer lies with you. In practicing what works best for you and your family. Thanks for your comment. You really made me smile!

    As far as the fixative, I am checking with Master Artist, Nana. She says that yes, one can be used if you like. She’s going to check on the name brand examples and let you know.

  • Sally August 10, 2011, 1:10 pm

    Thank you so much!!

  • Annie Kate August 11, 2011, 5:35 am

    Oh, thank you so much. This is just the encouragement I need!

    Annie Kate

  • Barb-Harmony Art Mom August 11, 2011, 5:38 pm

    I opened my reader and found your review and encouragement. You see, I have been feeling a little lost on which direction to take with the OHC and after reading your words, I realize I just need to keep on going with what works and keep spreading the word about what seems so simple but yet can impact little (and big) lives so intensely. It is a GOOD way of life.

    Thanks for your words and your support of the OHC.

    • Monica August 11, 2011, 7:00 pm

      I love Barb’s OHC and Sketch Tuesdays as well. I can’t wait to start doing them again!

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